I had my doubts about getting the vaccine. It was developed and approved in record time. The FDA’s emergency approval process had never been done before, and this was an mRNA vaccine, an entirely new type. There were indications of political pressure on the CDC and other federal scientists to spin their messages to enhance Trump’s image.
Still, there was an independent review board advising the FDA. I trusted their independence. And I didn’t really think that the scientists at the FDA & CDC would abdicate their responsibility for public safety.
Besides, I knew that workers with direct patient care would be ahead of me for the vaccine. And because of this anthology and my own role in the healthcare industry, I felt a responsibility to set an example.
So, I steeled myself, promised that when it was my time I would get the shot, and I wouldn’t hesitate.
A week after Pfizer, Moderna got approved on December 18. I got the invitation to schedule my first dose of Moderna just five days later, before Christmas Eve!
I was not ready. Had they really gotten to me so soon? Was it because our healthcare providers were turning down the vaccine? Was there a mistake?
I also felt guilty. Others are working in meat packing factories, making deliveries, and stocking the shelves with groceries, unable to social distance at work or during their commute. There were elderly members of the community with far more health risks than me.
But I was reassured that our doctors had been vaccinated, and based on my role in the organization, it was my turn. I had promised, I would set a good example.
Entering the hospital, I wore a work-issued earloop mask. A woman greeted me, took my temperature, and noted my badge and reason for entry. I was surprised by the number of people there. Social distancing in an almost-crowded hospital hallway, negotiating intersections where people turn any direction. This is the place we bring people who have Covid, where we’re treating active cases.
I made my way to the main cafeteria. Sliding walls sectioned off the back of the dining room. A woman behind the table at the door of the temporary room took my information, and I made my way through a few stations inside the room, handing them my consent form, answering questions. I drew closer to the array of tables in the back of this makeshift room, each table with only 2 people. One with a lab coat who sat facing the table, the other at the end of the table, facing the opposite direction, sleeve rolled up.
Finally, they sat me at one of those tables with the med student who would administer the shot. He asked about my Christmas, I asked about his. The kid couldn’t travel home to see family. It weighed on him, but he tried to take it in stride. I consciously looked away from him, tried to focus on the conversation, like I was just there to chat.
Then the jab. Not bad!
Then he pushed it in a little deeper – I felt that!
Well, this is a teaching hospital. They need to learn by practicing. I’d be extra sore.
The rest was anticlimactic. I moved to another station or two as they finished processing me, giving me my vaccine card and explaining when I need to get my second dose.
The end of the temporary room was not closed off. It opened back to the dining room, but a large rectangular section was still cordoned off with chairs more than 6 feet apart. The 15-minute waiting area. I set the timer on my phone as instructed, and slipped out without further interaction once it sounded.
I did feel side effects that afternoon and the next day. Fatigue, a headache. In fact, a splitting headache the morning after. But I took some pain reliever and didn’t even miss work (from home). Other colleagues had similar experiences. One even had a slight fever. My sore arm lingered – as expected.
Then I heard about more friends and family members getting covid, some hospitalized. The disease was everywhere. Neighboring Los Angeles county was rationing care, having an oxygen shortage. A close family member in LA was hospitalized for covid and needed oxygen. Friends were losing parents and grandparents.
The Capitol building was attacked! Covid kept surging!
A new strain emerged in California. The death toll was staggering, especially in neighboring LA County. Covid became the leading cause of death in America.
But things started changing. California started vaccinating people 65 and older. These appointments got snapped up eagerly, showing great demand and trust in these vaccines. My family member in LA came home from the hospital.
On President Biden’s first day in office, he rejoined the World Health Organization and ordered mask requirements on federal property. On Day 2 he announced full-time wartime effort to fight the coronavirus, including mask requirements on planes, trains, and busses, as well as a centralized federal response.
I heard that the second dose side effects were likely to be worse. At the end of January, some of my colleagues missed work, some multiple days, due to second dose side-effects. You never know how your body’s going to react. My own side effects from the second dose proved less severe than the first.
Now my county is vaccinating anyone 16 and older if they have a serious underlying health condition. Soon will be farmworkers, grocery store workers, and others in the food supply chain. President Biden wants all states to open up vaccines to the general public by May 1.
It may not be easy to get an appointment, and people shouldn’t cut in line, but when it’s your turn, please get the vaccine.